Friday, 26 March 2010

East Devon Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats, often shortened to Lib Dems, are a centrist to centre-left social liberal British political party. The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The two parties had formed the electoral SDP-Liberal Alliance for seven years before then. The party's leader is Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems, with 63 MPs, are the third-largest party in the House of Commons, behind the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. They are relatively strong in SW England, beating Labour by winning three out of the 11 parliamentary constituencies which make up the county of Devon in the 2005 General Election.

Promoting social liberalism, the Liberal Democrats voice strong support for constitutional reform, civil liberties, and higher taxes for public services. Although the party objects to state limitations on individual rights, it does favour a welfare state that provides for the necessities and amenities of life. Lib Dems support multilateral foreign policy, opposing British participation in the War in Iraq and supporting the withdrawal of troops from the country. They are the most pro-European Union of the three main parties in the UK. The party has strong environmentalist values—favouring renewable energy and commitments to deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Since their foundation, Lib Dems have advocated electoral reform to use proportional representation, hoping to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

Paull Robathan, 61, has had over 35 years' experience of working in a wide range of environments including the NHS, international business, universities and local government. Originally from Wales, he studied for an MBA at London Business School and was Visiting Fellow at Imperial College. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Chartered IT Professional. A former Leader of South Somerset District Council, he is particularly proud of his work with the Somerset Waste Partnership, a national leader in reducing waste and increasing recycling. As a District Councillor, he is Chairman of South Somerset Together, the Local Strategic Partnership recognised in February 2010 as the best in the country. He is a Board Member of Raglan Housing, one of the leading Housing Associations in the UK with many homes in the South West, and is a Governor of Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust at Musgrove Hospital, Taunton. He and his wife Margaret have two grown-up children.

The East Devon Liberal Democrats' website is at

1. What benefits from your heavy involvement in local government do you think you would bring to East Devon voters, were you to be elected as their MP?

I understand how MPs and Councillors can work together, and where they must defer to each other. Case work is a complex and sensitive aspect of our work but is made much easier by effective collaboration within the frame of data protection and personal freedom. Knowing how to interact with Council Officers, and for them to know 'where I am coming from' eases the way to resolving constituents' issues quickly. I also have many years' experience as Chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership and that has opened up many ways in which I have built strong working links with Natural England, National Trust, Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and many others.
2. Your election agent Tim Dumper did rather well in previous General Elections when he stood as the Lib Dem candidate, beating Labour into third place in both 2005 and 2001, and was at one time listed as Parliamentary Spokesperson, East Devon. Why is he not standing as a candidate, and why did you put yourself forward on this occasion?
Tim chose not to stand some time ago, indeed we had another candidate for some time. When I discovered that East Devon was without a candidate, but had such a strong support base and a vibrant party organisation I put myself forward and was thrilled both to be selected and for Tim to come forward as my agent.
3. The Lib Dems website states that your party understands rural Britain like no other party, and makes this pledge. "We will reform farming apprenticeships to ensure there is a new generation of British farmers." How would this be done in a rural constituency like East Devon farmers?
By introducing a lower limit for farm payments of £300 through the Rural Payments Scheme – we would save up to £20million, remove the clutter in the system that leads to payment delays and reallocate funds to support farm apprenticeship schemes including a £7million hill farming apprenticeship scheme to ensure that our uplands have a strong, vibrant and youthful future. (Thanks Tim Farron). We do need to ensure that Bicton College continues to provide excellent training and education, and expand the provision.

Lib Dems boast that they understand rural Britain like no other party

4. You've come from South Somerset District Council. What impact do you feel you've made already in the East Devon constituency?
In two weeks it's difficult to judge. It is both coincidental and fortunate that SSDC and EDDC are working through a management integration designed to reduce costs in the back office to preserve front line services in a time of deep cuts in central funding. I will work with both Councils where I can.
5. One of your rivals describes the East Devon constituency as having "breathtaking scenery" and mentions that "the area is home to a large number of retired pensioners" helping "to make East Devon a comfortable, quiet resort area." I would hope that there is a bit more to the constituency than that! How do you see East Devon? How would you build on its strengths and combat its weaknesses, if any?

Some of East Devon's breathtaking scenery:
Budleigh Salterton's red cliffs to the west of the town

True, but hardly the complete picture. I have not looked at any other responses before completing this, so I am relying on your summary. Young people are a significant component of our population. I spoke to a sizeable number of them at Exmouth Community College just this week and their fears are for the planet, the cost of education, and just who has the right answers to the economic situation we find ourselves in. The constituency is home to many many small businesses, working hard to deliver high quality services in tourism, farming, light industry, retail and many others – it's my job to make sure they get access to loans, support from agencies and are recognised for what they are, the lifeblood of the local economy. Developments at Exeter and East Devon Growth Point are potentially in a different league; my experience of business start ups, innovation and technology should prove useful.
6. On the Lib Dem Voice website at I read the view that, compared with Labour and Conservative MPs' behaviour "it looks like the Lib Dem expense claims are – relatively speaking – minor." Could one ascribe this to the fact that the Liberal Democrats are, generally speaking, a more morally upright bunch than their main rivals?

You could say that, I can't possibly comment. I do know that London Lib Dems do not claim for second homes and go home at night. There is not a culture of 'we are in it for what we can get', it's more 'we are in it for what we can do to make things better'.

Lib Dems: "More morally upright than their rivals?"

7. You've joined Exmouth Online on Facebook, have kept a blog since 2004, and you have an IT background. What safeguards would a Liberal Democrat government adopt to avoid some of the recently publicised and sometimes hilarious disasters involving supposedly secure information on disk, in areas such as the NHS or defence for example?
Paul Robothan: a background in IT
Government IT projects have become the bane of people's lives. Over-complexity is a sin. Projects need to be broken down into realistic components and managed tightly. My background is partly in managing complex global IT projects on time and budget – it can be done, but the targets must be set and kept to; the more there is political interference once a project is established the worse it's likely to get.
8. "If you want things to be different, really different, choose the party that is different - the Liberal Democrats" we are told on the Party's website. How would you briefly summarise for voters the differences between your Party and the Labour and Conservative Parties?
We have developed a complete set of costed, deliverable programmes. We are happy to spell them out and discuss them – not hide in the long grass without revealing our cards in case someone steals our ideas. I want our ideas to be implemented, I will praise anyone who does, whether we are in power or not.
9. The Lib Dems make this accusation on their website: "The Conservatives cannot offer real change. They are mistrustful of international cooperation with an out-dated world view. They do not understand the need for close cooperation with allies in a globalised world. They want to pull up the drawbridge, leaving British foreign policy isolated and impotent." Would you like to explain the truth of this accusation, with some examples?
Referring to Ming Campbell and Ed Davey is the easy answer: they both have huge respect in the international community and a deep understanding of the issues. Graham Watson has been a stalwart in the European Parliament and I would listen to him any time he wanted to advise me. Personally I cannot see how a world as interconnected as ours now is can function effectively without cooperation at all levels. My work across the globe has led me to realise that there are committed, responsible leaders in every society, we must work with them.

Above: The European Parliament in Brussels. Lib Dems say that they understand the need to work with allies in a globalised world

10. Your biography makes no mention of hobbies, though I've discovered mention of your Somerset vineyard on your blog What other hobbies do you have time for in your busy life and what do you enjoy about them?
I do indeed have a small organic vineyard in Somerset; we have produced Regional Quality wine from Pinot Noir grapes, and will I hope produce a lot more. My other interests span Welsh Rugby (I was born in Cardiff and played 2nd division rugby in Wales), music (modern Folk music such as Fairport Convention and Tom Paxton, 'folk rock' such as Eagles and Storys, and classical music including Katherine Jenkins and many others). My third major interest is genealogy. I am a member of the Institute of Genealogists and have studied my family in some depth (there is another blog – – with some of the data). The reason my first name is Paull with two lls is that my great-grandmother and all her antecedents were from the West Country: Somerset, Devon and Cornwall; on the Robathan side I can trace my family back to 1549 and the Western Rebellion and beyond to the early 1400s.

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